Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Recent Reports from the HSF OTF Committee

The most recent meeting of the ACT 2 Large-Capacity Ferry Vessel Oversight Task Force was June 13, 2008. One of the more noteworthy points from that meeting was Mike Formby announced that the Kahului Harbor improvement plan is expected to be scaled back again to a $98 million dollar project (from the original $345 million at the beginning of this year) from the State with a request to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to actually pay for and do seperately the breakwater improvements. Formby said DOT still has to consult with the Harbor Users Group before this is revision is pursued. Soon DOT will put out the report for that OTF Committee meeting.

For this post, I go back to the prior month's OTF Committee Report dated May 23, 2008, for the meeting that took place on May 9th, 2008, reporting on HSF operations for the month of April and one event in May. There were a number of interesting points and stories in that report including a small boat close encounter with HSF, 4 unbelieveably close encounters of less than 100 meters with whales, and a series of plotted map charts showing locations and numbers of whales sighted by HSF south (16 to 62 whales) and north (1 to 15) of Molokai for each one-way run.

First, for the plotted maps, I recommend scrolling through them pages 19 through 66 of the report as Attachment F at:
Notice how many more whales were seen by the vessel lookouts south of Molokai vs. north of Molokai. This plotted map idea was that of Uncle Les.

Second, here is a recap of the 4 reported whale close encounters for April:
1.) April 11, 2008 - "Whale was spotted 300 yards away fine on the port bow. The vessel turned hard to starboard to avoid the whale. The whale passed clear of the vessel 50 yards down the port side. The vessel was...travelling at 31.5 kts."
2.) April 16, 2008 - "While inside the 100 fathon curve approaching Kahului Harbor, a whale was spotted by the starboard side lookout passing close on the starboard bow. Vessel was already in hand steering and turned hard to port while reducing speed. The whale passed close down the starboard side while moving away from the vessel with a distance of 5-10 yards. The whale was observed by crew members and actually breached soon after the approach."
3.) April 22, 2008 - "The vessel manuevered for two whales... Both whales were spotted by the starboard lookout and the vessel manuevered with steering and speed reduction for both. The first whale passed about 50 feet and the second whale passed 25 feet. Both passed down the starboard side and clear of the vessel."

Wow, that is 50 yards, 5 to 10 yards, and 25 to 50 feet close encounters. Based on the court testimony, I am wondering from the bridge or otherwise how close to the port or starboard side of the vessel can the crew actually see?

Lastly, regarding the close encounter with a small boater that HSF apparently didn't even see until right upon it (from pages 78 - 79 of the report as Attachment I) :

"FROM: Randy Awo, OTF Member [DLNR Officer]


SYNOPSIS: On May 9, 2008 at approximately 10:10 hours...received a phone call from Sydney Medeiros, owner/operator of the "Ka Nani Kai" a 28 foot radon, registered on the Island of Maui. At this time Medeiros...wanted to express his concern about not being detected by the "Superferry" while operating his vessel approximately 3 miles seaward from the shores of Maunalua Bay on the Island of O'ahu.

Previous Encounter Described:
Medeiros said that he has seen the Superferry operating in these waters before; always traveling east. On one occasion he called the Superferry using his VHF radio, on Channel 16 to provide his location. Superferry personnel responded by saying "I see you; got you on radar; will pass you in a few minutes." The Superferry then passed starboard of the "Ka Nani Kai," at a distance that was safe and did not generate a wake. As a result of this previous encounter, Medeiros believed that on May 5, 2009, the Superferry had detected his vessel in the water via radar.

Observation Continued -- Superferry Closing Distance/Ka Nani Kai Undetected:
Medeiros returned to describing the May 5, 2008, incident. He said that he was traveling in an easterly direction, while the Superferry was traveling on a north easterly track. As it became increasingly apparent that his presence in the water went undetected, Medeiros decided to alter his course in order to yield to the Superferry... Medeiros said that if he had not altered his course a hazardout situation would have developed or a collision would have occurred.

Superferry Comes Within 100 yards of the "Ka Nani Kai":
According to Medeiros, at its closest location the Superferry passed within 100 yards of the Ka Nani Kai, traveling at about 30 knots, while maintaining a north easterly course. In order to avoid any negative impact from the wake caused by the Superferry, Medeiros turned his vessel so that his bow was facing the on coming surge.

Medeiros said that the Superferry was close enough that he could see passengers through the glass; they appeared to be standing. He said that he observed one passenger in a red shirt, near the rear of the vessel, standing at a location where there was no glass. He described the situation in the following manner, 'I saw glass, glass, glass, and then one passenger standing outside of the glass area, wearing one red shirt.'

US Coast Guard Notified:
Medeiros notifed the US Coast Guard... The USCG said that he (Medeiros) had a responsibility to yield to the Superferry in order to avoid or prevent a collision. Medeiros informed the USCG that he agreed, however the Superferry also had an equal responsibility to do the same.

Navigational Hazard:
Medeiros said that he was not filing a complaint, however had a concern about the navigational hazard this situation presents. He said that if the 'Alaka'i' was unable to detect his vessel on their radar, what would happen to bottom fishermen who are anchored or drifting and unable to yield to a rapidly approaching vessel in time to avoid a collision. He said that the Alaka'i was transitting an area that is popular with bottom fishermen. He was further concerned by the fact that the Superferry has now begun to travel at night, increasing the possibility of a mishap.

Medeiros said that he had been operating boats for 30 years; he has a Captain's license and served as the Commodore for the Maui Trailer Boat Club for 10 years.

Submitted By--Randy Awo"

Aloha, Brad

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